Keeping an eye on evolution

December 3, 2007

University of Queensland research has found the “missing link” in the evolution of the eye.

Professor Shaun Collin, from UQ's School of Biomedical Sciences, together with colleagues from the Australian National University and the University of Pennsylvania, have identified animals that have eyes that bridge the evolutionary link between those designed to simply differentiate light from dark to those that possess a camera-like eye.

Professor Collin said his research gathered evidence from multiple branches of biology, in support of a gradual evolution of the eye, and it proposes an explicit scenario to explain how it was that our eye emerged.

“Charles Darwin wasn't able to reconcile the evolution of the eye given its complexities and diversity of eye designs,” Professor Collin said.

“So it was a major surprise for us that we have found what appears to be a clear progression from a simple eye to a complex eye, which occurred over a relatively short period (30 million years) in evolutionary history.”

Professor Collin said the researchers studied a very primitive fish, the hagfish, to discover the missing link.

“This animal diverged from our own line somewhere around 530 million years ago,” he said.

“Hagfish are simple, eel-shaped jawless and ugly animals, that inhabit the oceans at great depth, and that are renowned for the revolting ‘slime' they exude when disturbed.

“They behave as if blind, though they have a primitive eye-like structure beneath an opaque eye-patch on either side of the head. Previously it had widely been thought that the hagfish eye had degenerated from a lamprey-like precursor.

“But our research suggests hagfish did not degenerate from lamprey-like ancestors, but are instead the remnants of an earlier sister group.”

Professor Collin's research with Professor Trevor Lamb from the Australian National University and Professor Ed Pugh from the University of Pennsylvania, was recently published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: Hacking the body—the scientific counter-culture of the DIYbio movement

Related Stories

Scientists discover key clues in turtle evolution

September 2, 2015

A research team led by NYIT scientist Gaberiel Bever has determined that a 260-million year-old fossil species found in South Africa's Karoo Basin provides a long awaited glimpse into the murky origins of turtles.

Better learning through neural distinguishing

September 1, 2015

A study published in the latest issue of Nature Neuroscience describes work led by the University of Geneva's (UNIGE) Faculties of Medicine and Sciences, on the indisputable role of the olfactory bulb in mammal brains' ability ...

VIMS reports intense and widespread algal blooms

September 1, 2015

Water sampling and aerial photography by researchers at William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science show that the algal blooms currently coloring lower Chesapeake Bay are among the most intense and widespread of ...

Recommended for you

Secrets of a heat-loving microbe unlocked

September 4, 2015

Scientists studying how a heat-loving microbe transfers its DNA from one generation to the next say it could further our understanding of an extraordinary superbug.

Plants also suffer from stress

September 4, 2015

High salt in soil dramatically stresses plant biology and reduces the growth and yield of crops. Now researchers have found specific proteins that allow plants to grow better under salt stress, and may help breed future generations ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.